Brand designer and brilliant marketer Walter Landor once said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”. Suggesting that it doesn’t really matter how good a product you make – unless it evokes desirability and value in the mind of your customer.
The year was 1957, and in post-World War II England, the Suez Crisis had sent fuel prices soaring, leading many to start wondering if the large, gas-guzzling barges of the day made much sense.
Thinking with the times, Sir Leonard Lord of the Morris Company issued his top engineer, Alec Issigonis, a challenge: design and build a small, fuel-efficient car capable of carrying four adults, within economic reach of just about everyone.
The two most important innovations Issigonis came up with were to have a compact suspension system allowing the wheels to be pushed right to the edges of the vehicle, and secondly, turning the engine sideways (transverse) - to power the front wheels instead. This further freed up interior space, because the MINI didn't need a massive prop shaft running underneath the car to power the rear axle.
By the early-60s, the Classic Mini had willed its way into the hearts of many. Transcending traditional class barriers: everyone from hipsters and mods to milkmen, rock stars, and royalty – wanted to get behind the wheel of a MINI and experience its infectious spirit.
In addition, the very traits that made it a good workhorse, made it even better on rally stages. Realising the MINI’s potential early on – British racing legend John Cooper fitted a more powerful engine, bigger brakes and a few tuning tweaks of his own to create the Mini Cooper 997 in 1961. Perhaps not knowing at the time, that the humble little MINI would go on to rewrite the rules of engagement and change the face of rally racing for years to come.
Before long, the nimble little classic MINI was outracing and outlasting the larger, more powerful, but clumsier sedan competitors of the day. Most notably winning the prestigious Monte Carlo rally three times, between 1964 and 1967. It would have been four consecutive victories if not for the controversial 1966 disqualification (for using wrong lightbulbs) – which finally saw a Citroen declared the winning car.
Despite starting out as a separate tuning outfit, MINIs developed by the John Cooper Works company became synonymous with the fastest MINIs on the road and rally stages of the world.
So it was with little doubt when new owners BMW acquired the MINI brand in 2000, the John Cooper name was retained to identify the brand’s most performance focussed products. Today, the John Cooper Works (JCW) models are the most premium offerings of their respective model lines – carrying with them the premium trimmings, the full suite of technical features, and the most powerful engines.
But, if the proof is in the pudding – are JCWs models nothing more than spiced up versions of their MINI counterparts or is there real tech and design behind the company’s claims of driving exhilaration.
For this, let’s take a look at the recently launched 2019 MINI Cooper Countryman and Clubman JCW models
In keeping with the JCW tradition, both the Countryman and Clubman receive a substantial power hike over the Cooper S variants. The JCW models pump out a whopping 306 hp and 450 Nm of maximum torque, a substantial bump over the 192 hp and 280 Nm of torque the "regular" Cooper S model receives. The top speeds of both the JCW Clubman and Countryman are electronically limited to 250 km/h versus 228 km/h for the Cooper S Clubman.
The JCW models swap out the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic unit for a beefier 8-speed automatic transmission to handle all that added torque.
MINI ALL4 For Better Traction
The JCW Clubman and Countryman models are both supplied as standard with MINI’s “ALL4” all wheel-drive system for better traction, versus the front-wheel drive only Cooper S models.
For added stability, the JCW variants receive a sport suspension system that lowers the car by 10 mm over the Cooper S for better stability and looks. The JCW Countryman is additionally equipped with Adaptive Suspension for that perfect mix of comfort and sharp handling.
To keep everything in check, the JCW Clubman and Countryman models are equipped with a sport brakes system, that is tougher and can handle more heat and stress when these cars are pushed to their limits.
A side effect of additional power is more heat under the hood – to combat this, both JCW models come with an uprated cooling system to keep things cool. The JCW Clubman also features two external coolant radiators.
Both the new MINI JCW Countryman and Clubman are fitted with 19-inch JCW Circuit Spoke Two-Tone wheels, for edgier, race-inspired looks.
To single them out from the rest of the pack, the JCW Countryman features a new bumper trim panel with open-air intakes on both sides, as well as bigger tailpipes of 85 mm in diameter.
The JCW Clubman, on the other hand, comes with a completely redesigned appearance from its predecessor, featuring a new honeycomb front grille, a new front bumper, a front spoiler with a larger splitter and a new insert in the lower grille, and 95 mm exhausts tips.
Inside, the JCW variants feature sporty racing seat upholstered in Carbon Black Dinamica Leather, JCW leather steering wheel, JCW instrument cluster, JCW centre display trim, JCW start screen, and JCW doorsills.
They also feature stainless-steel pedals, on top of the “MINI Yours” Interior Cockpit Surface in Piano Black that illuminates at night in 12 different colours. A Panoramic Roof additionally adds to the airiness of the cabin space.
With all that power and tech at the ready, any current JCW MINI has the unique ability to make any journey - whether it be a trip to the shops or a blast down your favourite backroad - into an adrenaline-fuelled rush of speed and smiles.
The tradition of being small and ridiculously fast is as true today, as it was half a century ago!